Gary Boshoff

Time for SARU to embrace Div

2012-04-24 11:20
Sport24 columnist Gary Boshoff (File)
In a week where the incumbent Springbok coach (Heyneke Meyer) held his first official training camp as a Springbok coach, two former Springbok coaches made the news as well - Jake White for returning to South Africa as the coach of the Brumbies after having been jobless for almost four years, and Peter de Villiers for being jobless and having asked SARU to re-employ him in a different capacity.

I understand why De Villiers has gone hat in hand to SARU for a job: if White, who won the coveted Rugby World Cup (2007) struggled four years to get his next coaching job, it will be even more difficult for him (De Villiers) who only managed to reach the quarter-finals of the 2011 edition.

In fact, during his tenure as Springbok coach, De Villiers stated on numerous occasions that he does not expect to be re-employed by SARU when his contract expires (after the 2011 RWC). He accepted that and even boasted how he was already preparing himself for that eventuality by investing in certain sporting ventures to keep him busy when he left the services of SARU. 

Yet, he revealed last week that he approached SARU with a proposal for re-employment in February this year. However, unlike his predecessor (White) he did not propose that he be re-employed as Springbok coach, but rather to help with the development of coaches at the grassroots level of the game.

De Villiers’s proposal is an interesting one in that it is the first time that a former Springbok coach has made himself available to serve grassroots rugby; coaching development in particular, on a full-time basis.

Despite the many mistakes he made during his tenure, De Villiers also achieved much and has taken South African rugby to new heights in many respects. He is held in high regard by many and respected across the cultural and racial divides that characterise this country. He could well still make a meaningful contribution to the future development of South African rugby, if allowed.

The fact is, presently SARU does not have a professionally organised coaching structure with a clear pathway for coaches to develop from the grassroots up to the professional level. In fact the SARU ‘coaching system’ is a disjointed array of courses that is not utilised or even recognised by its provincial affiliates. In 2005 I attended a national coach’s workshop in Bloemfontein where a senior executive member of SARU promised to ensure that a proper national coach’s structure (system) will be created to address this glaring shortcoming in the South African rugby system. Needless to say, as we speak - and seven years later - nothing of the sorts has materialised; a very serious indictment against those who control the purse strings at the rugby federation. 

If there is anyone at Newlands who is serious about the future sustainability of the South African rugby system and the competitiveness of our representative sides, he should advise SARU to seriously consider the proposal of De Villiers to work with club and upcoming coaches to guide them to the top.

We need to do something about the trend of employing foreigners to coach our players. What will be next? New Zealand coaches at our universities? Or even worse, New Zealand coaches at our top rugby schools? We need to invest in proper coaching development structures for rugby, sooner rather than later.

Like many of his predecessors, De Villiers has his shortcomings. We witnessed many of them during his tenure as Springbok coach. However, we cannot accuse him of not having a passion for the game or a sincere yearning to contribute to the development of the game. He has the knowledge and the coaching experience (at all levels of the game and with players from grassroots to professional level) to teach grassroots and elite coaches the fundamentals of coaching, but more importantly, to advise them of the potential pitfalls they might encounter.

In my opinion SARU should embrace rather than shun this offer from De Villiers. It is a golden opportunity to boost their coach training project. How could they not see this? 

Gary Boshoff is a former SARU player and current Afrikaans rugby commentator on SuperSport.

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